Don’t sh*t where you live

My first ever foray into long form blogging, normally I consign myself to twitter @MaxDCoyle or Facebook but occasionally I need to talk about things at some length. Since this is my inaugural blog post, a little background on myself I think wouldn’t go astray.

I was born in Napier and spent the first ten years of my life there, spending many a weekend down at one of the many rivers with family and friends. The family then decamped for Auckland and after a quick stay in Kelston we landed deep in the Waitakere Ranges where my brother and I would set off for day long bush explorations and swimming in the freezing streams, trying to catch the elusive freshwater crays as we topped up our drink bottles and then sprinted off through the Kauris and pongas. Thats about as much history as is necessary for this post, though through lifes meanderings I’ve now ended up in the amazing City of Hamilton, a statement I make with no sarcasm, HCity really is something else.

Dialling forward 6 years of being JAH (Just Another Hamiltonian) I recently attended the opening of the Claudelands Event Centre. Standing beside the MP of my Hamilton West electorate, Tim Macindoe, we witnessed the public opening ceremony, the official opening had been a dawn affair. As part of the ceremony, items were placed into a time capsule, with the event being MC’d by a local Radio host and Mayor Julie Hardaker.  Alongside a scroll signed by the public including myself , minutes of a Hamilton City Council meeting, other assorted items and a mauri stone to channel mana, was a small vial of water from the Waikato River.

As the Mayor went through all the items on the table and talked a little bit about them she told people not to accidentally drink the water, as it was from the river, and would probably make you very sick. There was a bit of a laugh from the crowd and a big laugh from the person standing next to me. Of course the person standing next to me was still our Hamilton West MP, National’s Tim Macindoe.

With the recent report showing 72,000 New Zealanders are drinking faecally-contaminated water, this laughter cut straight through me. Here in the Waikato according to figures from Federated Farmers themselves 27% of farms are still guilty of significant non compliance with environmental measures and this figure is one that has almost tripled over the last 3 years. Macindoe’s laughter at our inability to drink from our river, The Mighty Waikato, after the National Party continues to trot out the well meaning but toothless Clean Streams Accord to show it cares is illustrative of just how little my local MP cares about the environment and his electorates wellbeing.

Until our Government implements legislation to protect our waterways, for instance the National Policy Statement on Freshwater, a draft of which has been prepared by The Land and Water Forum they will have to accept responsibility for the continued degradation of our water.

Back to the Waikato River, as Greens Co-Leader Russel Norman pointed out recently, Aucklander’s drink the Waikato River. He visited the filtration complex necessary to remove the toxic elements before the water is drinkable once more. Workers at the plant told him of an expensive upgrade in the near future that would be necessary as the river gets worse and they need more filtration/purification services. This upgrade will be a cost to the taxpayer, while the Government continues to subsidize these polluters out of the Emissions Trading Scheme and pass along the cost to everyone else for destroying our river.

My son Flint is 4 months old.

I grew up swimming in Napier’s and the Hawkes Bay’s many rivers. When he is old enough I want to have the opportunity to swim with him at Wellington Street Beach in Hamilton and at the rivers of my childhood back in Hawkes Bay without being worried about him becoming violently ill. It seems to me that by continuing lack of action by our Government, this will not be a reality. It also seems like some of our politicians never understood that old adage, don’t shit where you live, or drink for that matter.

6 thoughts on “Don’t sh*t where you live

  1. Thanks Peter, good article detailing exactly how dangerous contamination is. Thanks for the link and now the challenge is for us all to do something about it.

  2. Eye opening. We’ve started learning about talking about water issues in Future Problem Solving – and it is interesting (and slightly scary) to have this level of contamination on our own soil – well waterways….

    Great article, thanks for putting the truth out there – I also enjoyed your use of inferences and anecdotal accounts.

  3. . Tell me will the NZ government help to fund fencing off all of the waterways on Waikato farmaland? I doubt it. Who will carry the cost?

    great blog Max ;-j

  4. Thanks Matthew. Jaxter, farmers must foot the cost. They have already been subsidized by the Government by not being included fully in the ETS till something ridiculous like 2080. Some of the farmland has been fenced but its about more than that, and the ones that haven’t fenced need to be slapped with large fines, so fencing them will be a much cheaper option. we need to move now before more waterways ‘flip’ like the Waituna lagoon is about to do unless urgent action is taken.

  5. Hi Max,
    welcome to, the water’s fine here. 😉

    Lol on your bio, I had relatives in HB & summered there many times in my teens, have swum all the major rivers then but wouldn’t do that now, nor take my kids there; my parents lived in the Waikato (and my Dad still does) for three years of my primary schooling & I still have a soft spot for the place.

    Even in the 70’s, we were warned off going down to the back of the farm where the river went past – it was very swift, my parents were working for a stud farm on SH1 between Cambridge & Hamilton, so they weren’t keen on having to get us fished out upriver somewhere.
    And even in those days, dairying and throroughbred studs alternated along the river, there was runoff of all sorts to contend with, as well as Te Rapa dairy factory effluent and the local tannery & abbatoirs’ outflows.
    My primary school in Cambrige was also above the riverbank, but well fenced off as there was quite a drop to the water itself there.
    We learned to swim in the local town pool, and most farms had a swimming pool at the bosses house!
    Quite a change for us from sunny HB, but we got used to the chlorinated water.

    My Dad has spent his entire adult life in the farming industry, one way or another, with a brief stint at Te Rapa freezing works. He’s seen the effects of agrichemicals on land and people, he’s not 100% in agreement with me about farmers passing the risks of toxicity on to the rest of society to cover, but he’s getting there.
    He doesn’t follow the debates about what toxins in our pastures and waterways have done to the health of NZ’ers, but he does know that my sister and I have allergies and asthma problems from childhood, and that our children show concentrated effects of that sensitisation.
    The jury is still out on whether allergies are environmentally caused or genetic, but I’m pretty sure it’s a mix of both – add environmental toxins to an already genetically pre-conditioned child, you’ll get hyper allergic responses. It’s progressing about as slowly as the research into cancer carcinogens did in the early decades, with producers of carcinogens (like tobacco) firmly denying that there was any causative effect.
    Immunological disruption (of which allergies & asthma are just two forms) is now increasingly being seen as linked to environmental toxins, like the endocrine disrupters in plastics (BPA) which are slowly being phased out.

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